Study Shows Patients Are Open to Clinical Trials, But Can't Find Them

patients open to clinical trials

In a recent study, 73% of people who had not participated in a clinical trial reported they would be open to doing so. Now it’s up to sponsors and CROs to engage this untapped audience.

With 75% of clinical trials failing to meet recruitment deadlines, sponsors and CROs are continuously searching for new ways to identify and engage potential patients. Despite the fact that 27% of clinical trial costs are dedicated to patient recruitment, many studies still fail to reach the right audience. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, over $2 billion was wasted on clinical trials that were cancelled due to lack of participation.

What is the cause of this disconnect? One study conducted by Civis Analytics suggests that the interest in clinical trials is there, but the awareness is severely lacking. While only 7% of study respondents had participated in at least one clinical trial, almost three quarters of those who had not reported they were open to doing so.

These figures have significant implications for clinical trial recruitment. While most people are not participating in research studies, many may be interested in enrolling should they encounter the right opportunity. This suggests that by fine-tuning ad messaging and expanding digital marketing initiatives, CROs and sponsors can meet their recruitment goals simply by boosting awareness within the right patient groups.

How Do Patients View Clinical Trials?

The small group of Civis Analytics respondents who had participated in clinical trials were unique in a few ways: they tended to be under 50 years old, Caucasian, and male. They were also more likely to have a high income and self-report that they were in excellent health.

These trends support what many researchers have found to be true: there is often a lack of diversity in clinical trial participants. Fortunately, of the respondents who were open to participating in clinical research, 56% were female, 21% were non-white, 36% were 50 and older, and 86% reported that they were in less than excellent health.

This interest doesn’t come without important considerations from the patients’ perspective, however. Among all respondents, 80% said it’s important to be compensated for participating in clinical trials. Those surveyed also revealed their general distrust of pharma companies, with 11% stating they do not believe pharma has the best intentions for patients. Surprisingly, participants tended to prefer being contacted about clinical trials via direct mail (44%), though a substantial number (33%) also reported they would like to be directed to a website.

While only 8% of all survey respondents had talked to their doctors about participating in clinical trials, a third said this would be their preferred method of contact. Results varied between trial participants and non-participants, however — more than half (56%) of participants had talked to their doctors about clinical research, compared to just 3% of non-participants. This indicates that involving healthcare providers in recruitment can be an important factor in improving patient trust.

Digital Marketing Can Help Reach Eligible Patients

Today, nearly every patient demographic is online, and they’re using the internet to research healthcare information. Digital marketing can therefore help sponsors and CROs engage patients on the platforms where they’re already searching for treatment.

Facebook, for example, has a user base of over two billion people, spanning nearly every demographic and region. In some cases, nearly 100% of a patient population for certain diseases or conditions is on Facebook. Consequently, trials can benefit significantly by using Facebook (or other social media platforms) to build targeted ads based on age, gender, location, and interests.

Similarly, pay-per-click advertising can help reach potential patients by targeting users based on search intent. These ads appear at the top of users’ Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), which are populated based on what was entered in the search bar. Using Google Ads features like keyword insights and geolocation, PPC can help clinical trials reach patients who are looking for treatment and open to participating in research. That said, sponsors and CROs should keep in mind that most patients don’t realize that enrolling in a study is an option, so targeted keywords should focus on conditions or treatments as opposed to clinical trials themselves.

Personalization Is Key

One of the most important benefits of digital marketing for patient recruitment is that it allows clinical trials to seamlessly target several different demographics at once. For example, as certain populations tend to distrust pharma — black (8%) and Hispanic (9%) respondents in particular are less likely to think that companies have the best intentions for participants — clinical trials can try tying messaging to a respected sponsor or healthcare provider when creating ads for these groups.

Effective patient recruitment strategies may initially require more resources and investment than CROs and sponsors expect, but the cost of failing to meet recruitment goals is far greater. By creating accessible and relevant content that speaks to patients’ unique needs, clinical trials can use PPC, social media, and more to bridge the gap in awareness and reach the right patients.

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